Family Growing? Bursting at the seams? Is it time for a move?

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June 24, 2011

A few days ago I “stole” some time to indulge in a walk and photo-session at the Rockefeller Preserve.  Fortunately, I brought my telephoto lens…and as luck would have it – I was able to capture several shots of this  new mom and her brood of ducklings.  Seriously,  I could  almost just see her “smiling” with pride!  The ducklings were all over the place floating around on the water like tiny corks.  They were bobbing their heads in the water – with their tail feathers in the air – as Mom looked on watchfully.


The size of her new family brought to mind the housing market.  (So shoot me! I guess I’m always thinking about real estate in some respect)  But I know of so many people who feel “stuck” in their homes even though they are bursting at the seams with a growing family.   They want to take advantage of the buyers market and they are in one of two positions:

1. They are renting and “waiting for the bottom.”

2. Are worried that they won’t “get enough out” of the home they need to sell first.

So here is the skinny on the Westchester NY housing market…

Although the national news is not good – in the northeast and  the tri-state area in particular – the housing recession is starting to wane.  Both Core Logic and NAR have reported price increases for the region overall.  This actually affirms the very local stats that I have been watching for some time.  Certain popular areas such as Scarsdale, Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck and Larchmont are showing price increases. There is no doubt about it.  You can buy less house in these areas today than you could about a year ago.  Eventually, this effect will filter its way to the markets that are holding steady – and they will start to edge up.  My guess is that areas such as White Plains NY which has been relatively flat but with increased activity may start to edge up in price.  In turn this will trickle into areas that are further from Grand Central Station.  The decline in those areas will end – and with all that –  the leverage that buyers have enjoyed for so long and now take for granted will also end.

What are the implications for first- time home buyers?

The answer is pretty simple for them.  If you can get the financing – for God’s sake – get off the fence and get reasonable!   For those who still think prices can go lower – maybe you are right – by about 1-2% – MAYBE.  But 90% of the air has already left the market and interest rates are ridiculously low.  Granted, Westchester is still  expensive – but this nothing new. It always has always been expensive live here! If anyone thought that a housing recession would change that – then I guess they are also waiting for pigs to fly.   Homes are more affordable than they have been in decades thanks to a 20-30% price drop and near record low financing.  That doesn’t mean you can  buy  a 4 BR house in a prime location with banner schools marble baths -including a master suite – and a granite eat-in kitchen for $500k.   Not even close.   Few can jump into a home like that directly from a rental – and  that has always been the case.  A friend of mine who fairly recently  bought a high end house in a prime neighborhood in Westchester – said “this took us 25 years to achieve!”  He’s probably in his early 50s and what is true for him  and his wife is true for us all.  When he was 30-something he was in a “starter home” like 90% of all the other first time buyers.

First time buyers can have a win-win if they wake up and smell the coffee.  They have nothing to sell – so they are jumping in at near record affordability.  But I see far too many of them literally shooting themselves in the foot because the buyers market  has brought out the green-eyed monster called greed.   Since the market is essentially flat – and even edging up in places – comparable sales RULE.   The bargains are already baked into the current pricing structure – trying to gouge further is not going to be productive when the comps support a low-ball. My advice to first-timers is stop getting in you own way because your power in this market will be waning.

For move-up home sellers/buyers the Westchester real estate market is more complex:

You have a home to sell and you are afraid that you won’t “get enough out” to buy what you want at the next level.  This is the proverbial chicken and egg issue.  The problem is that markets move in tandem and if your dream is to sell high and buy low you will never get past square one.  After all – as the market for your home moves up – so do the prices for the home that you want to buy!  So “winning” becomes a zero sum gain.

The question you should be asking is not what you will make off of your home, but whether you can afford the move.  With financing this low – you have an opportunity to “LOCK IN” a mortgage at a super -low rate while buying a bigger home near the bottom of major housing correction.  Stomaching the potential “lost gains”on the home that you are in may be the price you need to pay to make that happen.  Don’t forget that for every 1% increase in interest rates you lose 10% of your buying power – whereas a 1% decrease in your current home value translates into a 1% decrease in purchasing power.  Interest rates are and purchasing at that lower price point are the movers and shakers in this case.   The focus on what you can get for your home might well be a red herring. After all – if you wait for the market to”recover” before selling your home – the new home you want will be that much more expensive.  So the savings in waiting are more imagined than real.

For this group – consulting an agent about a realistic price on your current home  and working with a competent lender to determine how much you can afford is key.   Examine what is possible now and what will happen as prices edge up and interest rates increase.  You may find that it is wiser to make your move now.

©2011 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks –



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